In 25 years of leadership I have hit my head a few times, both literally and metaphorically speaking.

Literally as a youth leader, when games have gone wrong, plus there was the one time I could include when I got head-butted for Jesus. These occasions hurt, especially the pride, and they often left their mark too.

It’s the hitting my head in a leadership sense that has been more of a challenge to deal with.

When I look back on my leadership journey I can see a number of pivotal moments when my head hit the ceiling, so to speak. The ceiling which represents both my leadership capability and my leadership capacity. Every time I hit my head I had a decision to make. Do I sit down, feel the pain, get fed up with it and quit being a leader OR do I work out what I need to do, what I need to learn, what can help raise the ceiling and create greater leadership capability within me and increase my capacity?

In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell calls it the ‘Law of the Lid’. We all have one but the best thing is we can lift that lid.

I have clear recollections as a leader of not knowing what to do, of wondering how to work something out, thinking I will never be able to carry that increased level of responsibility, or know how to handle certain circumstances. Yet here I am, on the other side of what I would simply call, my leadership growing pains.

It’s an interesting dynamic that all leaders have to negotiate. I want to grow as a leader but I don’t like the discomfort it can cause. I want to be challenged yet I don’t always enjoy what that challenge might bring my way.

However, hitting my head as a leader became my new norm. I accepted that it would be a continuos part of my journey as I had a desire to grow as a leader. I made the choice that even if it was difficult to deal with the growth, that even if the stretch was tough, I would not quit.

Instead I learned to become aware of when I may hit my head. I started looking ahead. I kept on reading, learning, watching other leaders, listening to the right kind of wisdom. I began to work on raising the ceiling on my leadership in preparation for what may be ahead.

Many young leaders have come and gone since I began. Amongst the different reasons for not walking with God or staying on the leadership journey, this unwillingness to do what it takes to grow well is possibly in the top 3. We hit our head, we don’t like it, we see that effort is needed to breakthrough and we just don’t bother.

We need more Christian leaders who can stand the test of time. Who will stand for God. Who will not only ‘do’ the job of a leader but also learn what it means to live the life of a leader. Who will acknowledge that it’s not easy but worth it. Who can keep themselves healthy, teachable, protect their character and integrity, as well as keep a walk with God as the most important aspect of their life.

5 quick things [not in any order of importance] that I do to make sure I’m always raising the lid on my leadership…

1. Carpet Time. There is absolutely no substitute for time spent with God. Pray like your leadership life depends on it.

2. Reading. I always have books on the go and not just leadership ones.

3. Learn the Word of God. I need to hear Gods voice. I get a bit antsy when I’m not sure what God is saying. His Word is the best way for me to hear him so I read it every day.

4. Space to think. Not necessarily a week away. The other day I took 20 minutes to walk around the block by the office. It’s enough as a change of scenery, to talk to God, and clear my head.

5. Ask questions. Of yourself, of other leaders, of the tasks and projects you have. What am I trying to achieve? Where can I learn about this? Who could help me?

Bonus thought: It’s not all on you. Involve others in your world and get them to help you carry all that you are carrying. Glean from their wisdom. When I think I am the only person who can do a certain something, that’s when I’m heading for the low ceiling and about to get a bruise.


What would you add from your own experience of ensuring that you are always in growth mode so that your head never hits that leadership ceiling?

One thought on “Leadership Growing Pains

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